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dg.o2003 Demos Show Off New Hardware, Software Research
System demonstrations reveal new collaborations and discoveries in teaming computer scientists with government partners
DGRC Staff

Virginia Tech's Mary Miniuk demonstrates the Testbed for High-Speed End-to-End Communications in Support of Comprehensive Emergency Management

Ruijin Ma was part of a team that studied Lake Erie's shoreline, where erosion is threatening to topple posh homes sitting atop the bluffs that ring the giant waterway. The problem was, shorelines are dynamic, with variable tides and shifting water levels that make accurate measurements a nightmare.

But by combining satellite altimetry, flyover "lidar" images, tide gauge levels and other data, Ma and his colleagues at Ohio State University were able to track the devastating impact of Erie's crumbling edges.

"The shoreline is eroding 70 to 100 feet a year, very severely eroding," Ma said. "The challenge was to process multiple sources of information across different platforms."

This project, led by Ohio State's Ron Li, was one of many success stories on display during two evenings of project demonstrations at the National Conference on Digital Government Research. Ma had another accomplishment to report: his Lake Erie model has moved to Tampa Bay, where researchers are examining the impact of industrial runoff and global warming on the vanishing seagrass in nearby Cockroach Bay.

"The work is allowing government to do decision-making in a more scientific way," Ma said.

Other demonstrations covered e-rulemaking, visual interfaces, e-mail encryption, metadata glossaries, preserving e-publications, cancer hot-spot mapping, mobile field data collection; web querying and XML web querying and knowledge modeling. Among the highlights:
  • Annie Becker and Luke Nowak at Northern Arizona University are trying to make Web sites readable for older adults. Their suite of software identifies when text is written at too high a reading level, or in a font style, size or color illegible to the average 60-plus Web visitor. Another piece of software sweeps through a Web page, correcting offending design points.

    "Older adults are getting online to self-diagnose and do their taxes but it turns out they can't understand it," said Becker. "It's kind of scary."
  • Steve Crawford at the GeoVISTA Center at Penn State is making up map games to teach children basic geography facts and GIS analysis skills. In one game, kids can paint the election map 2000 red and blue, just like the TV anchors, to show how Bush lost the popular vote but still took the White House.

    University of Arizona's Hsinchun Chen (left) shows off the digital government web portal his team is developing to DG Program Manager Larry Brandt

    "My 6-year-old daughter likes it," Crawford said.
  • Mary Miniuk and Timothy Gallagher at the Virginia Tech Center for Wireless Technology are working on a GIS-enhanced, rapidly deployable emergency communications system that they believe could get everyone talking again after disasters like the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The researchers are showing the system to state and federal disaster management officials. "We've gotten nothing but positive responses," Gallagher said.
  • Hanan Samet, Jagan Sankaranarayan and Egemen Tanin are using Napster-style peer-to-peer data distribution to allow many people to grab the same government data without clogging the server. They also are working with spatial data conversion, so they can take, say, an Excel spreadsheet with U.S.county names and population figures and turn it into a map.
  • Dean Duncan III at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, School of Social Work uses knowledge discovery and data mining to show that a third of the state's welfare-to-work participants were back on the dole within a few years, meaning more than 70 percent were able to stay financially independent. The study also found that many people collected benefits for only seven months.
  • By integrating datasets from satellite images, woodland sensors and basic GIS, Stefan Falke at Washington University in St. Louis is showing officials how to map air pollution plumes produced by forest fires. o "This will help them minimize downwind pollution from planned fires," said Falke. "They can also estimate based on how big the vegetation where it's going to blow in a wildland fire.".
  • Gamal Fahmy at West Virginia University is helping the FBI's criminal justice information services division clear its missing and unidentified persons files with an automated dental records identification system. In just a few seconds, the computerized program dramatically narrows the search for a post-mortem match to a missing person's records.

    "The system still needs an expert to look at the last 1 to 20 or so possible matches," Fahmy said. "With fingerprints, you can wear gloves, you can cover your face with a mask. Dental features are the only features no one can play around with."

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